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Fall protection in residential construction: compliance lags

Last week we looked at a specific construction accident that resulted in a worker fatality in Maryland. This week, let's look more closely at the issue of efforts to improve fall protections across the country.

One of the groups involved in those efforts is the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). In a recent issue of the ASSE's professional journal, researchers reviewed strategies for preventing falls and why those strategies are or are not being used.

The problem that must be addressed, ASSE points out, is that so many workers work at elevated heights without adequate fall protection.

The statistics on fatal construction accidents attest to the scope of the problem. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 64 percent of worker fatalities in residential construction are the result of falls.

Employers should be well aware that fall protection measures are needed for workers who must do their jobs on scaffolding or other heights. And yet a safety audit of residential sites found that the compliance rate for fall prevention or protection measures was only 59 percent.

This compliance rate was an average figure. It was considerably lower than that in some specific types of construction. In roof truss installations, for example, only 28 percent of the work sites were in compliance with fall prevention standards.

Clearly much more attention should be paid to fall prevention so that carpenters and others who work in the construction industry are not put at undue risk of workplace accidents. There are many devices -- known as personal fall arrest systems -- that are available to help with this. But there also needs to be a commitment to use them.

Source: Risk & Insurance, "ASSE: Productivity concerns deter use of protective devices," Nancy Grover, September 9, 2013

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